Small eateries often serve very satisfying meals for people on the go. The Cove Hawaiian Grill more than meets that criteria. Tucked into a strip of shops at Bluebonnet Center, the café is similar to those found along beach roads in Hawaii. The somewhat limited menu is a blend of quickly cooked Asian dishes and familiar popular American burgers and sandwiches.
Customers read the menu board posted on the wall and place their order at the front counter. Prepared quickly, the food is brought to your table on plastic plates with plastic cutlery. The comfortable small café is decorated with large, colored photographs of Hawaiian scenes and small wall-mounted aquariums.
We started with a large serving of delicious bulgogi fries ($4.99), a large helping of thin, sliced potatoes, lightly fried in vegetable oil and topped with a blend of melted American cheese and small slices of Korean grilled beef. The fries were a nice change from cheesy nachos or artichoke dip and make an excellent appetizer or side dish.
For a substantial meal try one of the café’s variety of platters. Choices include one meat ($7.49), a combo platter with two meats ($8.99) and the Cove platter with three meats ($11.99). The platters came with macaroni salad and steamed rice or substitute choices of a garden salad and steamed vegetables. The Cove Hawaiian’s grilled meats were tender and succulent. Sliced paper thin they were fast grilled, which is convenient for customers in a hurry. The bulgogi beef and kalbe (beef short ribs) were seasoned in a slightly sweet, rice wine marinade. The spicy pork and chicken slices were marinated in a blend of soy sauce, chili pepper paste, rice wine and other spices and provided a peppery treat with each swallow. Katsu (deep fried breaded pork tenderloin strips) were lightly salted and wonderful when dipped in the accompanying tempura sauce. If you like your dishes more fiery, the café also offers a traditional Asian hot pepper sauce.
The sides appealed to our guest who preferred simple, bland dishes. The garden salad consisted of sliced iceberg lettuce with a hint of vinaigrette and the macaroni salad featured a mild mixture of chilled macaroni with a hint of egg and mayonnaise-based dressing. The sticky rice will indeed stick to your ribs and is meant as a balance to the spicy meats.
If burgers are your passion, then do try the Maui burger ($6.99), a half-pound Black Angus beef patty stacked with a teriyaki-glazed pineapple, grilled onion, American cheese and a mayonnaise-based dressing. The café’s yummy bulgogi burger ($6.99) was packed with generous slices of char-broiled thin seasoned beef and dressed with shredded cheese, mayonnaise and lettuce.
Any of the meats can be ordered in a wrap ($6.99). For something different, try the spinach wrap with shrimp ($7.74), a spinach flour tortilla filled with tender grilled shrimp, a small amount of rice, lettuce and tomatoes with a mild mango salsa. You also won’t go wrong if you choose the chicken salad sandwich ($6.49). Served on untoasted wheat bread, it was filled with an excellent mixture of shredded chicken breast, mandarin orange pieces blended with mayonnaise and dressed with lettuce. Somewhat unusual to our taste was the musubi ($1.99). This sushi-like snack, popular in Hawaii, includes an oval of sticky rice topped with a slice of SPAM and wrapped with a wide piece of nori seaweed. The taste of the bland rice is offset by the saltiness of the canned meat.
The Cove Hawaiian doesn’t serve alcohol. Cold drinks, sweet tea and unsweet tea are available from dispensers. The only dessert listed on the menu is cheesecake ($3.26), and it’s sweet, creamy texture combined with a crunchy graham crust was delightful.
The clean, casual atmosphere includes a flat-screen TV in back, making it a good spot for catching up on noontime news for the lunch crowd or for sports games at other times. It’s also a comfortable spot for families. Ask about meal suggestions for kids.